Halifax – Atlantic Canada needs to move out of the ‘70s and implement bold new public policy to address its population crisis. Crunch Time: Population change will challenge Atlantic Canada’s future, a new publication from the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS) concludes, “Atlantic Canada needs new policies and new direction – and we need them now, unless we want to drift towards becoming the third world of the 21st century.”
Author Ian Munro, AIMS Director of Research, points out that Atlantic Canada faces a demographic shift that could leave it without enough workers to replace retirees. Current projections show population growth is stagnant and, in some cases, declining. While governments have taken steps to combat the decline by increasing immigration, the median age of the population continues to rise.
Crunch Time explores the potential consequences of an aging population, as well as some policy options to combat the demographic shift. Munro begins by looking at the different demographic futures facing various regions of the world. Africa, Asia and, to a lesser degree, Latin America are seeing large numbers of young people reach maturity and enter the workforce. Conversely, Oceania, North America and Europe are seeing a large component of their workforces approaching retirement age. In Canada, that translates into fewer people in the workforce supporting more people outside of the workforce. Such a situation will strain government resources as the increased costs of caring for the elderly is shouldered by a shrinking number of people. Within Canada, the Atlantic provinces will be the hardest hit, both economically and politically, by population change.
“Aside from the economic difficulties that may result from an aging and slow-growth or even shrinking population, a shrinking population share will also lead to lessened political clout as a greater proportion of seats in the House of Commons go to the faster growing provinces,” writes Munro.
He says addressing the potential problems associated with a stagnant or declining population will require drastic changes to public policy so it can adapt to this new reality. Munro says the governments in Atlantic Canada need to increase the population, improve participation in the labour force and increase worker productivity.
“To do so they must change their policies across the board: immigration, taxation, child care and marketplace regulation to name a few,” says Munro. “Old policies designed for old problems must be tossed out quickly, although this will be a tough sell on officials who have made a life’s work from related pork-barrelling and populist politics,” says Munro.
Click here to read the complete Commentary.
For further information, contact:
Ian Munro, AIMS Director of Research
Charles Cirtwill, President (acting)
Barbara Pike, AIMS Director of Communications
902-429-1143 ; 902-452-1172 – cell